The Blur: Stepping outside the residential and commercial boxes

The Blur: Stepping outside the residential and commercial boxes

Recently, Donner (of Beth Donner Design Inc.) took on a new challenge; designing a hospitality furnishings collection for Naturalist. The collection is made with reclaimed wood and resin combos with touches of brass. “It’s that organic-meets-retro-meets-Scandinavian style,” Donner says. “It’s a minimal design made specifically for small-scale boutiques, but it could work at larger hotels.”


The blur. It symbolizes an innovative spirit, a level of creativity that allows us to not just push boundaries, but step beyond them, uniting worlds and building something new. In design, we see examples of this everywhere — the melding of residential and commercial, the relationship between indoor and outdoor, the versatility of mixed-use spaces. Join us over the next three days as we explore how blurring the lines can reveal a clearer picture of creative design. Click here to see part two of the story and click here to see part three.

Whether you call it resimercial, hospidential or soft contract, commercial spaces have taken a turn to include more residential-looking areas, giving the feel of home away from home. This is especially true as residential designers diversify revenue streams and cross over into hospitality and contract design.

This convergence is happening in office spaces, hotels, restaurants, schools and hospitals, and it shows no sign of slowing. Ken Gibson, president of NYC-based Gibson Interior Products, says this blur allows designers to not be restricted.

“Before there was resimercial, the key word was collaboration,” he says. “The idea was to change the workspace to be more collaborative. It went from cubicles and private offices to open space plans, which then presented the need for people to get up and talk privately. So then work pods were introduced, and those have a really residential feel, too.”

The spa-like bath at The Main, a Hilton property in Norfolk, Virginia, designed by Baskervil.

Gibson works with design firms to break down floor plans to include private offices, open work spaces and residential-styled collaborative areas. “Designers have an obligation to the client to create a work space that finds the right blend of functionality and design to give the client what they want,” Gibson says.

Gary Inman, interior designer and vice president of hospitality at Baskervill, says hospitality projects are the sweet zone between residential and commercial design because they blend elements of each. And while he agrees it’s possible to tackle both, designers may have more luck choosing one.

The challenge depends on the scope of the work. “It’s easier if it’s a smaller project, but when it gets bigger or has a construction component, then it becomes complicated quickly,” Inman explains. “That’s when I’d say to consider a consultant. Partner with another firm that has the expertise. You can be the visionary, but don’t take the leap of faith and just think it’s going to be okay. Surround yourself with a team that knows commercial codes, that knows how hotels need to function. I always say to partner with someone until you’re ready to go it alone.”

Another major consideration when it comes to commercial design is the brand you’re working with. When you work with a major brand, it’s very different than a privately owned company, in that there are strict brand standards. Oftentimes that’s hundreds of pages of legal speak and specifications, and you must be able to create a design that’s compliant with those guidelines.

“Understanding the brand is so critical to being able to start your design,” Inman says. “Unlike with a resident where you can sit them down and get to know them and start to build the design based on that, with a brand, they’ve spent years refining it. They have professional brand consultants. They all have a different type of personality and character based on the demographic they are trying to attract.”

To help designers understand the opportunity hospitality design offers, High Point Market Authority has started to host the Hospitality at Market Program during market, which Inman first initiated. The event allows designers to see and test product, and explore finish options, production schedules, cost levels and opportunities for customization. In addition, educational programs — many offering CEU credits and networking opportunities — give designers a chance to learn about this exciting design category.

“I hope designers walk away with the confidence to know they can design for hospitality,” Inman says about the Hospitality at Market program. “Kelli Ellis and Blanche Garcia, two well-known designers on our panel, are women who made the transition from residential to commercial design. I think they’ll be able to speak to what that process was like, what the challenges were, how they overcame them, and what the rewards and benefits have been. For those on the fence and considering it, there’s no better message than hearing from someone who has taken that step and found success.”

The spa-like bath at The Main, a Hilton property in Norfolk, Virginia, designed by Baskervil.

Beth Donner of Beth Donner Design Inc., concurs about the intersection. She primarily works on commercial projects and says her interiors tend to have a warm and inviting feel, with a sexy side to make people feel good in those environments.

“It’s an interesting time for designers,” Donner says. “I’m working on a hotel on Fire Island right now, and the emphasis is to give it a slightly homey feel with a touch of glam. They want people to feel like they’re at home.”

Recently, Donner took on a new challenge: designing a hospitality furnishings collection for Naturalist. The collection is made with reclaimed wood and resin combos with touches of brass. “It’s that organic-meets-retro-meets-Scandinavian style,” Donner says. “It’s a minimal design made specifically for small-scale boutiques, but it could work in larger hotels.”

Whether this blur is a passing trend or here to stay, the opportunities it presents are clear. The key is education and gaining the confidence to take on these types of projects